Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Conversation on the Way

I just read A Conversation on the Way. The author contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a review for his book. I replied that I would be happy to do so, and I looked forward to receiving my free copy in the mail. It arrived a few days later, and I got to work reading it and writing this review. It is my first review of this sort, and I certainly hope it’s not the last!

The book is essentially a conversation between two men on their way to shul. One is sort of simple-minded: he doesn’t believe in evolution, and his beliefs correspond largely to typical frum beliefs. The other guy reads a lot and has lots of information and questions about these beliefs. He basically spends the entire book trying to convince his friend about the weaknesses in his frum outlook.
There were a number of things I liked and did not like about the book. It reminds me of Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s books, as some of those are also in the conversation format. I enjoyed some of R’ Miller’s books, and while some of Miller's science and ideas are simplistic, I found the format somewhat captivating. At its best, this format is more engaging and flows well; at its worst, this format can mask poor writing and saves the writer the trouble of coming up with other ways of making the story flow smoothly.
The thing I probably like most about the book is the range of ideas covered in the book. The skeptical friend is very well-read and touches on a wide variety of subjects, from the Argument from Poor Design, to the Anthropic Principle to hybrid vigor. A lot of subjects are discussed, and it is an excellent compilation of arguments against the beliefs of Orthodox Judaism. The skeptical guy does believe in God and considers himself a part of the Orthodox community, yet his beliefs and interests seem well outside those of the Orthodox mainstream.

One thing I would have liked to see more of in the book is a more thorough discussion of arguments against Orthodoxy from a non-scientific perspective. A more full discussion of morality would have been welcome, as well as a more thorough treatment of suffering and pain in this world and how that relates to belief in God. There was some discussion of the Holocaust, and a very brief discussion of morality. I would have loved to have seen a lot more on these topics, especially on morality.

It was an interesting read. A lot of arguments against a worldview are condensed in one thin volume, the author strikes a nice balance of original opinions together with traditional tendencies, and the words flow rather nicely. A welcome addition to the skeptic’s library.

6 comments:

  1. It would be cool if orthodox jews can take the SJ Talmud Challenge.

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  2. The talmud is proof that the concept of oral torah is a myth. If it was passed down intact, why is the entire talmud arguments about points of view. It's like a game of telephone where the end of the story is totally different from where it started. I'm also followinfg the current daf yomi on Niddah. The ignorance displayed by these so called sages about the entire subject is laughable and pathetic.

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  3. The Supreme Court seems to argue a lot about how to interpret the constitution however the constitution isn't bogus.

    The Talmudic sages based their decision on the science of their times. In 2000 years people may laugh at present day doctors.

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    1. However, the Torah is supposed to be "all-knowing" and it's so called wisdom be the one constant throughout the turbulent generations. So when these postulations are made and they become disproven, it leads to an ever inflating foolishness on behalf of the whole idea.

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  4. I am the author of this book, and could not be more pleased with the review, the first of my fledgling writing career. If any bloggers in the right margin of this page would like to review it as well, I would be delighted to offer complimentary copies. If any readers would like to enjoy my book, I will gladly offer it at deep discount. Profit is not my motive, rather I seek validation through others enjoying my work. Thank you to all for your interest.

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